Millions of people are almost turning to dust waiting for the next Marvel movie, Avengers: Endgame, but did you know that Icelandic gods inspired some of the characters from these films?


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Long before the decimation of Avengers: Infinity War had us in our movie seats saying ‘what the hell?’ beings from old Icelandic religion and folklore have inspired characters in the Marvel cinematic universe.


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Back in the 1950s Marvel Comics’ editor, the late, great Stan Lee sought to create a hero that was stronger than anyone else. He had an idea, instead of making a new hero human; why not make him a god.

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Lee felt that most readers were already familiar with Greek and Roman gods. So, he thought it would be more fun to introduce them to the old Norse gods. As many know, these gods were the deities that the people of old Scandinavia and Iceland revered.

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The first Marvel illustrator for Thor, Jack Kirby was already familiar with some old Norse Mythology and was excited to bring these characters to life. He was familiar with the stories of the sagas, and imagined these gods looking a lot like ancient Vikings, but wanted to modernise them a little.

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This combination of old Norse folktales with superhero modernisation worked, and Thor was a hit with comic book readers, eventually becoming one of the founding members of ‘The Avengers.’

Flash forward to today and within the Marvel cinematic universe the character of Thor has been integral to the series of films since his debut in 2011, long before the infamous ‘snappening.’

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Along with the decades of comic books and over ten years of film appearances, Thor has brought with him a pantheon of characters that all draw inspiration from millennia-old mythology that was commonplace in Iceland.


See Also: 4 Superhero Movies that were shot in Iceland


To help you geek out just a little bit more, we’ve broken down the characters in the Marvel cinematic universe that were inspired by beings in Old Norse Mythology.

Who are they? What were their responsibilities and how are they different from their film counterparts? Read on to find out more.

Thor: Played by Chris Hemsworth

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“I am Thor, son of Odin, heir to the throne of Asgard.” He pretty much says it all right here, almost anytime he meets someone new. In the movies, he’s an alien with incredible brute strength and the ability to summon thunder and fly with his hammer.


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Thor is based on Þór, the old Norse god of thunder who was responsible for the protection of humankind’s realm Miðgarður and also the realm of the gods, Ásgarður.

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Loki: Played by Tom Hiddleston

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In the films, Loki is the adopted brother of Thor. He was not originally an Asgardian but was born a frost giant in Jötenheim. He has had a rivalry with his adoptive brother since childhood and is consistently the source of trouble for his family.

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Loki is based on the Norse god of the same name, although his origins and relationships are almost entirely different. The Norse Loki was indeed born of at least on frost giant – he’s a frost giant on his father’s side, Asgardian on his mother’s – but was never adopted by Odin. He was seen as a trickster god, a shapeshifter who at times fought with the gods who ruled the earth and at other times fought against them.


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Odin: Played by Sir Antony Hopkins

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In the films, Odin is the king of the gods. He is the official head of the nine realms, father of Thor and adoptive father of Loki. He’s missing an eye and rocking a pretty cool eyepatch.

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He is based on the Norse god Óðinn. Óðinn is also missing an eye which he had to sacrifice to drink from the Well of Urður to gain all the knowledge of the universe.

Frigga: Played by Rene Russo

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In the films, she is the wife of Odin and the mother of Thor and adoptive mother of Loki. As the queen of Asgard, she sacrifices her own life to save the love interest of Thor (Dr Jane Foster).

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She is based on Frigg, the Norse goddess of the sky. She also was the all-knowing wife of Óðinn and was linked to family and fertility; she never sacrificed herself to save an astrophysicist though.  

Heimdal: Played by Idris Elba

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The gatekeeper to the Bifrost (the rainbow bridge that connects the nine realms). In the films, Heimdal can see almost everything that is happening in all of the nine realms. His name also bears a striking resemblance to the term ‘dial home.’

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In Norse mythology, Heimdall or Heimdallur was known as the white god. He was also the guardian of the Bifröst, has incredible hearing and would blow a horn called the Gjallarhorn to warn Ásgarður of impending danger. He was also the product of nine mothers, and was said to be the final god to die at the end of times, ‘Ragnarök.’


Want to know more about the Norse gods? Find out everything here


Lady Sif: Played by Jaimie Alexander

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In the films, she is a fierce warrior who battles alongside Thor and his closest companions. During the time Thor’s sister Hela took control of Asgard, Loki had banished her, but unfortunately met her end during the infamous ‘snappening’ of Avengers: Infinity War.

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She is based on the goddess of home, crops and the field who bears the same name. In the original mythology, she was the wife of Thor and had hair made of gold that was given to her by dwarves.

King Laufey: Played by Colm Feore

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In the Marvel movies, this dude was the king of the frost giants that live in Jotunheim. It was revealed that he was the biological father of Loki and not Odin. He was in turn killed by Loki.


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Laufey in Norse Mythology was actually a woman. She was a goddess and the mother of Loki. Her other name ‘Nál’ means needle and is thought to be a reference to the fact that she was slender and weak. Loki’s father was a giant named Fárbauti, a name which suggests he was a brute.

Surtur: Played by Clancy Brown

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The horned demon who holds Thor prisoner at the beginning of Thor: Ragnarök and later destroys Asgard isn’t that different from his Norse inspiration.

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He is the guardian of the realm of fire known as Múspell. He is often depicted as a giant with a flaming sword. He even has an island named after him in Iceland. There is a young island in Iceland’s Vestmanneyjar Archipelago that appeared after an eruption in 1963. That island was appropriately named Surtsey.


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The Surtsey eruption in 1963 Public Domain

Hela: Played by Cate Blanchett

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The secret sister of Loki and Thor. In the films, she was the goddess of death and the reason Odin’s reign had been so successful. She was strong enough to destroy Thor’s hammer ‘Mjolnir’ and had some pretty cool headgear.

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She is based on the Norse goddess Hel, who rules the realm of the same name. She was actually the daughter of Loki and the product of his union with a giantess. Complications of this made her body half alive and half dead. The place she watches over was called Niflheimur, the place the dead peacefully go into the afterlife. She was less of an evil, power-hungry villain than her cinema representation.

Fenrir: Played by a giant CGI wolf

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The massive wolf who ended up getting Hulk smashed. In Norse mythology, he was the son of Loki and brother to Hel. During the end of times, ‘Ragnarök,’ Fenrir broke free from the ropes that had been placed on him by the gods and ate Óðinn.

Valkyrie: Played by Tessa Thompson

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Fierce, determined, alcoholic. In the films, she was the only survivor of a noble warrior race who had once fought Thor’s sister Hela and lost.

An interesting point is that this character is given only the name Valkyrie in the film although Valkyrie is, in fact, the name of a race of female warriors.

In Norse Mythology the ‘Valkyrjur’ were a group of warrior women who served Óðinn. One of their primary roles was to choose the souls that would be permitted entrance into Valhöll, a beautiful hall in Ásgarður.

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There are quite a few other references to Norse Mythology in the Marvel cinematic universe. The planet where Thor’s new weapon ‘Stormbreaker’ is forged in Avengers: Infinity War was called Niðavellir. In Norse Mythology this place’s name is the same, and also the home of the dwarves. Thor’s hammer Mjölnir is the same in Old Norse, as are many of the places in the nine realms.

Although he looks like he could have come straight out of an Icelandic saga, Thanos is not based on any character from old Icelandic mythology. We have no idea what he has planned for the Avengers and can’t wait to see what Thor gets up to in Endgame.


Have you spotted any other places or characters in Marvel movies that take inspiration from Old Norse mythology? Let us know in the Facebook comments below.

About The Author

Jono Duffy
Writer / Content Editor

Jono Duffy was born in Brisbane Australia. He trained as an actor but tried stand up comedy and decided it was easier to get work making people laugh. He has lived in Iceland since 2015 and regularly performs stand up around the country. He’s done some pretty cool stuff since moving here including speaking at TedX , working at Eurovision and hosting a late night chat show, but he tries to be humble about it… he really tries.

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